The Brimstone, seen here on a Tornado, is one of several missiles expected to experience large orders from Mideast air forces. (MBDA)
DUBAI — The global smart weapons market, valued at $3.6 billion in 2013, is expected to reach $5.3 billion by 2018, according to an industry report.
The United States, which has about a third of the global market, is the most attractive for smart weapons, which include anti-armor weapons, guided munitions, guided projectiles, guided rockets and stand-off missiles. The Middle East is the second-largest market and expected to increase from $350.9 million in 2013 to $712.1 million in 2018, according to the “Global Smart Weapon Market forecast and analysis 2013 — 2018,” report by Texas-based research and consultancy Markets and Markets.
According to the report, rising tensions, sectarian violence, unrest in the Arab world, oil revenue and rising GDPs have severely influenced defense spending.
An increase of about 8.3 percent was recorded for military spending in the Middle East during the last two years.
“The Middle Eastern states have been privy to the friction in pushing arms sales through and as a result are pragmatically assessing other nontraditional sources of armaments,” said Matthew Hedges, military analyst for the Institutefor Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Qatar and Iran are the major defense spenders in the region, the report shows.
Spending on guided munitions alone in the Middle East is forecast to reach $267.5 million in 2014 and peak at $344.2 million in 2016 before dropping to $198.5 in 2018.
Spending on standoff missiles is set to jump sevenfold, from $23 million in 2014 to $173.3 in 2015, and peak at $208 million in 2018.
According to the report, US contractors and European firms are positioned to win significant smart weapons contracts during the forecast period, with the US remaining as a key ally to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while countries such as France and the UK maintain a good relationship with the Middle East.
“South African firm Denel, Serbian enterprise Yugoimport, Turkish company Roketsan and French manufacturer MBDA have been successful in the region due to their ‘lassez-faire’ approach to dealings with Middle Eastern states,” Hedges said.
Saudi Arabia’s massive modernization of its fighter fleet, UAE’s upgrade of its armed forces, and the demand from Israel and Jordan is creating immense potential for smart weapons in this region.
In May, Jordan said it would become the first international customer of the BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rockets.
Jordan signed a letter of offer and acceptance for the system at the Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference.
The APKWS rocket is the only guided 2.75-inch rocket fully qualified by the US Defense Department that uses semi-active laser guidance technology to strike soft, lightly armored targets in confined areas.
Saudi Arabia began to modernize its Tornado fighter jets with precision weapons in 2011, according to the report. The second phase of the Tornado program is expected to last until at least 2020. Massive procurement of Brimstone, Paveway and Storm Shadow air-launched weapons is expected to take place between 2014 and 2018. In 2013, Saudi Arabia released an order worth $6.7 million for the procurement of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).
The UAE is expected to increase its procurement of precision munitions mainly due to the Apache upgrade program underway. A massive procurement of Hellfire missiles is expected in the coming years, the report cited.
Denel and Tawazun Al- Tariq precision munitions are also expected to win major contracts, due to their in-house production.
UAE’s investment in the F-16 fighter is expected to initiate orders for Brimstone, Paveway and JDAM kits. In 2011, UAE officially requested to buy 4,900 JDAM bombs for up to $304 million.
“US firms are continuing to struggle with the vast array of armaments available in the US market,” Hedges said. “ITAR regulation is one of many stumbling blocks for arms sales from US firms to Middle Eastern states.”
In 2013, the UAE joined with Turkey to develop the Jobaria land system, Hedges said, which features a multiple cradle launcher that fires 240 rockets.
The report identified Saudi Arabia and the UAE as high-growth sectors. Massive modernization of their Tornado fighter jets and existing orders for precision munitions including JDAM, PGK kits, and Paveway missiles are major driving factors for Saudi Arabia.
In 2011, UAE planned to modernize its helicopter fleet, and Brimstone and Hellfire are expected to win many contracts. ■